Highly Qualified Teachers - Why We Struggle to Get and Keep Them

My wife found this on Facebook, I think it is worth your time:

Are you sick of highly paid teachers? Teachers' hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do -babysit!

We can get that for less than minimum wage. That's right. Let's give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan--that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day...maybe 30? So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations. LET'S SEE.... That's $585 X 180= $105,300 per year.

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year. Wait a minute --there's something wrong here! There sure is! The average teacher's salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student--a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!!

After I stopped smiling, I gave pause to think of how much educators work and how disproportionately they are paid. For the level of education they are required to have, plus the planning, and the care (not babysitting) that they provide it is unnerving that my son's daycare provider makes more than I do.
The 19th - Early 20th century school teacher was single or the secondary earner and therefore was not considered to need much in salary. But the cost of living has dramatically shifted and the number of teachers who are the sole breadwinners has increased.
I am speaking from the perspective of a citizen of California but I have also taught in Colorado and have colleagues in Oregon who are experiencing a similar situation. There is a huge budget crisis both at the federal and state level and everyone who is employed should certainly be grateful, but if we look at others who serve in government they are making twice or more what teachers are making so the pain is disproportionate.

I should also mention that this is not a pro/anti union situation. Unions have done wonderful things in the past but they need to evolve as do all organizations or risk irrelevancy. Many good teachers have been let go in order to keep more expensive tenured ones. A person should continue to do a job as long as they are good at it. Yes, I know the definition of what a good teacher is right now frankly sucks, but as it has been said, you know it when you see it.
Another concern is that our student population is exploding and as more and more teachers are needed, the cost of raising their pay by even a few dollar is going to add millions to the state budget. More schools and teachers are needed all of the time because in the past students were only required to go to a few years of school, then it became mandatory for high school, and now college is all but required. Will graduate schools be next to face overcrowding?
Yet, at the same time, everyone is demanding higher quality teachers. Can we have it both ways? Faced with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans, will a well trained physics major go work for a corporation starting at $75,000+ or work for a school district making half of that? Many of us consider teaching to be a higher calling that we would do no matter the pay, but how many millions of other potentially great teachers are not in the classroom? Not out of greed, but with student loans, home prices, and perhaps quality of life being a factor it is easy to see why we might have difficulty filling the teaching jobs with the best suited for the job.

Here are a few of my thoughts:
  • Tenure is wrong for education. There should be a reasonable process for letting go of teachers who are doing a disservice to their students.
  • Now that I have ignited the firestorm, let me also say that there should be a well thought out common sense criteria for evaluating teachers. This cannot simply be student test scores for reasons that have filled many books. It should also be peer evaluation, student evaluation, portfolio of work, considering the possibility of political or personal bias, etc.
  • Teacher pay cannot sustainably remain a function of time and how many credit hours one has. Teachers do not necessarily get better with time or additional education (although many do). We should not be measuring the inputs but the outputs.
  • Many teachers are struggling to do well because of a lack of sharing. For some reason, many teachers feel reticent and guarded about what they are doing in their classrooms. As a result, new teachers are having to reinvent the wheel in terms of curriculum. Quality lessons, activities, projects, ideas should be shared out amongst colleagues but also on a global scale. 
    • I see no reason why we cannot pool our resources and have a voting/ranking system to identify which ones are the best. I have litterally terabytes of stuff that I have created or received from colleagues over a wide variety of subjects. 
    • If someone is interested in helping me develop a system where we can just mass upload and crowdsource this, so educators can vote for their favorites, let me know!
  • The responsibility of education should not simply be the burden of citizens but of corporations which have a vested interest in a quality workforce. There is an uneven benefit between shareholders and the public when a school helps a student become successful. While some companies are taking an interest in education, many reap the benefits without returning anything to support the source from which they came. 
    • Imagine what would happen if companies gave a portion of their profits to help improve the quality of education. While the knee-jerk reaction is to shun anything that seems like a tax on business, this is no different than R&D and investing in human resources. The difference is that this requires a vision that reaches far beyond quarterly profits. Yet the most profitable companies know that you must invest in the long term otherwise there will not be a long term. Targeted funding for proven methods would greatly improve the quality of education in our society which has been proven to contribute to overall quality of life.
    • But then again, the problems of education aren't tied to how much funding we have or don't have. If they were, we would have fixed them long ago.
If you are in a position to do something, then do it. I always tell my students, we have to take advantage of our freedom to choose before we lose it. We are quickly losing our ability to choose what our next steps are going to be, very soon it will be chosen for us, and not one of us will like it.

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